raising your standards
It was a very sunny day in Northern California and I was out with my spouse enjoying a hike at Pacific Beach. We had discussed coming back the next night for sunset and then headed home. While in the car I was deep in thought finishing some last minute work so I could be with him uninterrupted at home, when he asked me to google the time for tomorrow night’s sunset, Not a big request, right? Right!
I am saying to myself, “I'm busy. I'm working so that I will be free when we get home. Why is he asking me to do this, I wish he would do it?”
I replied, with some attitude, “You can do that, can’t you?” He responded, "OK, fine, I'll do it when I get home." I could hear the tone in his voice that he was not happy, not angry, just definitely not happy. I felt his energy shift, though, and I certainly didn't want that.
He said, "You know I never do that to you."
"When you need something or ask anything of me, I never act like you are a bother, and you always do with me. Acting that way makes me feel like what I do doesn’t measure up; it makes me feel like I don't do anything of value and that I am insignificant. After all, you are the technical guy and I am the domestic one."
Damn. He was right.
Number 1, I always do that, I react like he is a bother. His point is valid.
Number 2, He never does that - this is one of those times that when he says never, it really is never.
Number 3, I do believe that I have more going on than he does. Our day-to-day life is entirely different and he has no grasp of how I have to plan every minute. His request felt like an interruption; to try and explain would just sound like an excuse - an excuse you might make to your kids when you can't do what they want. You know they don't get it and that makes you feel even worse - at least it does me.
I really should change my attitude, I really, really should! Don't you agree? I should be a better husband. I should appreciate in a significant way everything he does for us. I am not alone in this kind of internal dialogue and I am confident you can relate to what I am pointing to.
"How many times have you told yourself what you "should" do?" - Anthony Robbins
I should be more appreciative.
I should be more understanding.
I should be more patient.
I should do my part without complaint.
I should be the one that always leaves my spouse feeling good.
And the list goes on.
This story might hit home for some of you, and others of you might think, heck, maybe Thomas is right, his partner should have just done it. Except, right or not, the toll on our relationship, the cost is not worth it. Also, the very fact that I saw a should gave me an indication to investigate.
If you find yourself saying ‘should’, then I encourage you to investigate it. What should(s) are you seeing for yourself? Where are you should-ing? Test them by turning them into ‘must’ statements. If the must statement rings true for you, then you know it is an area where raising your standards will be important.
These are some of my ‘shoulds’ turned into musts:
I must change my attitude. I must be a better husband.
I must appreciate, in a significant way, everything he does for us.
If I can raise my standards here, I can raise them anywhere.
While a ‘should’ can exist in any area of your life, at the moment, we are focusing on your relationship. Most people have an endless list of things they believe they should do or should follow through on. And these should(s) carry about the same weight as a typical New Year’s resolution — that is, if it happens, then that’s great. If not, you won’t be too disappointed, because you knew it wasn’t going to happen anyway.
What happens when you decide something is an absolute must? The mind cuts off any other option but to succeed. Making the decision that you will find a way to make something happen can then dramatically improve your relationship. This concept of never settling for less will change your mindset forever.
Your relationship is a direct reflection of the standards you hold. Some people are in a relationship right now and they aren't happy because their standard is that they must be in a relationship, not that they must have a passionate and loving connection. Others may not be in a relationship because their standard is that they must not endure heartache or heartbreak, they must not be hurt, and that level of vulnerability is too scary.
Now is the time to raise your standards and turn your should(s) into must(s)? That’s how you redefine your relationship and yourself.
Chances are you’ve identified one or two standards, maybe more, that are lousy, to say the least. Take the time to look and write them in the area I've included for you. Make four columns. The left column is your area of focus (relationship with a spouse, child, parent), the next column is to describe it in a 'should' sentence, and the third column is to reinvent the ‘should’ sentences into 'must' sentences. Use the fourth column to write notes for each one.
Now, decide with 100% conviction, that you are the best spouse, the best parent, the best friend, or the best family member you can possibly be. You will achieve it by simply raising your standards. Stay true to these new standards and you will end up with more fulfilling relationships.
When you expect more from yourself, you won't have to voice what you expect from your partner. They will either be able to reciprocate and give you all that you give or they won't. Standards start within. No one can meet you at a relationship standard that they aren’t, first and foremost, meeting for themselves.